Tag Archives: volunteering

Wild Peloponnes

 
 

It is great to travel Greece after the season is over ... Campsites are empty and almost everybody is extremely relaxed.

The following photos are from the wonderful "middle finger" of the Peloponnes, which is a really wild and beautiful. Also, this region is said to be very unique because the inhabitants are so very stubborn and able to defend themselves that it is said they were never conquered by neither the Turks, the Italians or the Germans (am thinking of a certain Gaul village inhabited by a tribe just like that 😉 ...). This maybe also is due to the fortified houses they live in. Here, people still - unofficially, of course - carry weapons which is witnessed by the many roadsigns with bullet holes (no photos, unfortunately, as Sóley was really motion-sick during our last few drives) and it has become a natural thing in the morning for us to be woken up by gunshots.

One of many beautiful village churches on the way.

Barren mountains and white beaches ... a warmer Scotland!

 

Fortified city Vathia ... we can imagine that it was really difficult for any intruders to conquer this region.

 

... and another beautiful and deserted beach! Only the wind gives your body a proper sandblast!

The southern tip of the "middle finger" called Mani

 

Porto Kagio from afar

 

Stopover at a small restaurant. We are the only guests ...

... like it was taken from a South Sea travel catalogue ... are we still in Europe??

Wreck near Githio

 

Sóley on the lookout for sea turtles!

 

During a really gregarious evening at the campsite-bar, we meet Anna, an environmental activist working for an NGO (Archelon) who tells us about her work for the protection of sea turtles.

Our two daughters are really excited about that topic, because they know about our sea turtle experiences from our honeymoon trip to Costa Rica years ago ... The following day, we go with Anna, a volunteer from England who assists her, the owner of the campsite and two other campsite-guests from Austria on an excursion to a nearby turtle beach. The sea turtle species Caretta caretta, one of seven different sea turtle species nests here even though human activity and predators such as foxes and stray dogs are endangering the survival of the Greek part of the sea turtle population. But also unexpected aspects disturb the sea turtles. When they hatch from the eggs, they naturally follow the moonlight that is reflected by the sea. As there are so many beachside restaurants, at night their lights lead the turtles astray and they don't find their way into the water.

It is important not to touch them as their first "walk" down into the surf is the most important one in their lives - they take in everything their senses detect to be able to come back when they are grown ups to build their nests exactly here.

During an "excavation" of a nest where the scientists know that all turtles have hatched, suddenly another five turtles approach from the remains of the nest. We start a race between the five of them and Anouk is totally engrossed in the match when after an immense struggle on her way across the sandy beach her turtle wins, first reaches the sea and swims off into the unknown ... somewhere in the oceans there now is a small turtle growing up bearing the name "Anouk".

 
 

Anna excavates the fully (?) hatched nest ...

A hatched egg ...

 

A latecomer from the nest the scientists thought was fully hatched.

 
 

Spectators and fans applauding the sea turtle on its way into the sea.

 
 

This is what "travel school" is all about: intensive real life experiences that will never be forgotten! Just see the looks on their faces!

 
 

This is what Anouk draws the next day ... !

 
 

Backstroke dry training!

 

102 eggs, 101 have hatched and one is still intact.

Why is this egg still intact?

 

... no fetus inside!

 
 

Good luck and safe travels!

 

Between Heaven and Hell

You don't see from the surface of the idyllic Mediterranean Sea what dramatic human disasters this very sea has seen during months on end. On and off it just quarries out of us when our two girls again languidly poke in the good food we prepare for them, "Can you imagine what happens out there? How many families are on the run seeking refuge from poverty, war and eviction right now trying to make their way across this very sea and risk drowning right in front of our noses? They can't choose their food, if they have anything at all, and would certainly be so very happy to get what you right now despise and reject!"

But, to be honest, our kids can't really imagine all this in their age and we maybe expect too much from them! But we have the feeling that we are relaxing outrageously idle here taking our time all the while we could do something else, more productive for other people. I write a post on the search of "Paradise Beach" while African and Syrian families are desperately trying to find a chance to survive ... how decadent!

After days of wildcamping at the beach without any internet access we finally read news from Germany which are not dominated any more by riots and marches against the refugees coming to Germany day by day in the thousands. Instead, it seems that this wave is being answered with a real counter-"tsunami" of willingness to help and welcome for these desperate people. It seems that Germany has woken up and the majority has become louder than the small group of right wing activists!

And, what exactly do we do about all this? On Facebook we watch a TV-documentary on the mission of the fishing boat "Sea Watch" trying to rescue shipwrecked refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. Captain and key player in this documentary is André, a friend from our "Thor Heyerdahl"-days, one "of us". Damn! Maybe we can, have to also do someting! We can't just sit here and wait and just passively watch what is happening!

Spontaneously, I google for organisations that are active for refugees here in Greece and send an email to one of them asking whether we could also energetically bring in our energy where it is needed. Let's see what will come from that. But doing things for the sake of things will also not lead us or anybody else anywhere. We honestly ask ourselves if it actually is impious of us to drive in a car with AC and an over-full fridge in the opposite direction while masses of people give up everything they have and risk their lives to maybe be allowed to start anew in our seemingly "idyllic world". We go to Africa, which seems to be a place everybody else just wants to escape from. Wouldn't it actually be better to give the money we have saved up for this trip through Africa to charity and go back home and invest our time and energy in doing something for the refugees arriving in Germany?

Well, it is not as easy as that! Our jobs are already represented for by colleagues and our flat is subleased. Living in Germany we would have to spend notably more money than we spend here on the road. So, there would not be much left to give to others. No, a backdown because of guilty conscience doesn't help anybody. On the contrary, we should continue as planned and experience what Africa "consists of" instead of what the western media reduce it to. The money we spend on the road will automatically go to the ordinary people we meet and not to big international companies. All our food we buy in small street stalls and in small corner shops. So far we shopped in supermarkets only twice.

Also, we think that the effect of us being multipliers will also be a way to change the situation or at least the view people in Europe have on life in Africa as we are sharing all our experiences on our blog, the German "Explorer-Magazin" and the guidebook company "Reise Know How". At the same time this Transafrican exerience will also educate our two girls for a different future, we hope: the journey will hopefully shape them into cosmopolitan, dedicated and strong personalities who will influence the world within the scope of their abilities positively when they get older.

Already one day later there is a reply-mail from "Proasyl". They give us information on fields of application in Greece and also on contact persons and several Facebook-groups to enable us to coordinate ourselves with other volunteers. The places where help is needed are not really on our "route" from the Peloponnes to Athens, but a detour and a later shipping of the car for a good cause is something we would without heasitation do. We would be prepared to again perform and give everything for people in need.

But our kids just bring us back down to Earth, namely that now it's finally time for us as a family and that the family has to stay in the centre of attention.

Certainly it is without any "plan" behind it but Sóley is getting sick with some nasty gastrointestinal virus and constantly throws up in spite of the medication we give her, spitting out everything we painstakingly have chiseled into her. Sóley's lack of appetite in combination with her stubbornness nearly drives us to despair, because she simply doesn't take in enough liquid into her small body. We even go to a hospital and ask for medical advice. We bethink ourselves that we are still in the process of preparing for a big challenge for all of us: our overland trip through complete Africa from North to South. We urgently have to continue concentrating on that. Drinking and eating enough indeed is something that has to be trained, because the heat we experience here in Greece and will expect in Africa is not natural for us, but still a daily source of stress for our bodies, even though we have been looking forward to these temperatures for such a very long time! On the other hand, we have adapted to the climate as well, as temperatures around 24 °C feel rather chilly and make us dress more!

Our support for other people we will be able to offer often enough on our way through Africa. For example, we plan a "Follow Up" in the kindergarten in Adigrat in northern Ethiopia where we trained nursery school teachers last winter ... and also at the university there we will get involved. Private contacts in a remote mountain village in Ethiopia we plan to use to also support the people there. In addition to that, we have been planning our cooperation with the "Muskoka Foundation", a US-based foundation who establishes cooperations between overland travellers and places where their help is needed according to the routes they plan to travel along and according to their interests and education - all this is completely commerce-free. Among other things, we plan to cooperate with schools in Ethiopia and Kenya for this organisation. Together with friends from our working environment we plan how we can support their project, an eye clinic in Rwanda. Maybe, Mischa as a biologist will put through hygiene training for the staff.

...

We have been put back on track and will during our onward journey keep in mind the aspect "support of refugees and other people in need". Please contact us if you have any ideas concerning this!

Juliane